Mental health concerns everyone

Mental health. Two words we have all heard of, but rarely speak about. Why? Well, you can’t talk about ‘it,’ otherwise you’re one of them, a crazy person, right? That seems to be the line society is willing to tote.

Mental health is taboo, ‘it’ isn’t normal, there are places for people who need that sort of help, so, let them talk about it there.

How is it that in the 21st century, where supposedly nothing is taboo anymore, something so influential and wide spread as mental health can remain unexplored publicly?

Women’s rights, racial inequalities, homosexuality, alcoholism and drug addictions are all subjects that society once whispered about but are now publicly discussed; no longer brushed under the carpet. So why is mental health still there?

The problem lies in the perception. There is a notion that mental health is an ‘us’ and ‘them’ scenario, when the reality could not be further from the truth. That is not to say that every person will become afflicted by some form of mental wellness issue, just that it is a possibility.

None of us can know for sure what our trigger could be. It could be the loss of a loved one or a specific traumatic event, for each person the answer is different. And it may be unavoidable. Therefore, it is within our benefit to talk about mental health, to head it off before it appears.

Most importantly, it inspires us as a people to send the message that it is okay to be mentally unwell, it is okay to talk about our problems and it is not shameful to ask for help. I had to in the past as well as recently.

Since December I haven’t really been a student; I was stressed, to the point where it was affecting me mentally and physically, so I did something that was better for my mental health.

When I spoke to my professors about why I would not be able to complete their classes they were very gracious and understanding. It was exactly what I needed. In January I did not sign up for any classes, and I took a leave of absence from my research assistant position at LCMSDS.

I got a job so I could focus my energies on something creative and challenging that wasn’t university. Ironically, the job was with The Self Help Alliance, a local mental health organization.

For the past four months I have been meeting with people who experience different forms of mental health issues, and assisted in writing their personal stories of recovery for an upcoming book.

Not so shockingly, almost all expressed that talking about mental health challenges has been one of the most positive and influential parts of their recovery. Having the safe environment groups like The Self Help Alliance create offers, for many people, the only place they can truly be open and express what is troubling them.

That safe place, is what we all require, but rarely know exists. Before I came upon the job at the alliance, I had never heard of them. Public awareness about mental health resources is pushed to the corners of provincial and municipal advertising. Aside from mental health week, which is in the first week of May, it is left up to individual organizations and philanthropists to hold the torch of mental health high shouting, “Pay attention.”

The fact of the matter is support groups allow people to open up and they save lives; talking about my traumatic experiences probably saved mine. When I was leaving high school, repressed memories of mental, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of a friend surfaced. My world and mental state completely collapsed in a matter of days.

If I hadn’t had the support of a trained professional, someone I could totally trust and openly speak to without the fear of judgment, it is difficult to imagine how I would have survived. I got that support by chance, because I knew it existed, but what if I hadn’t?

I talk about my experience, not to shock, but to inspire others to do the same in their own way. Places exist in our community where mental health is not a taboo subject and everyone is welcome.

Talking about mental health and how it is not isolated to ‘them’ but affects all of ‘us’ is how we shatter preconceived notions and venture boldly forward into the final frontier of taboos.

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